masthead image

Lovat

History

Town site photo

Historical monument

©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko

In 1864 Thomas Allen established a post office which he ran for 10 years. After he resigned, the post office was closed for a couple of years. James McArthur took over briefly in 1876, followed once again by Allen for another two years.

The first of Lovat's two major businesses was established by Angus McKay in 1876. Angus and his brother John, both of whom were millwrights, purchased 5.9 acres on Lot 35, Concession 8 and set up a water-powered sawmill, alongside Willow Creek. The mill was later converted to steam power. John took over the mill in 1878 and continued to operate it 1914.

Most of the logs that were sawed in the MacKay mill came from farmers in the surrounding area. Sometimes they were purchased locally and other times they came from as far away as Saugeen and Kincardine Townships, and were dragged over to the Lovat mill by team or sleigh. The mill produced an assortment of lumber products including sawed and planed wood and tongue and groove.

John MacKay was a busy guy. During the mid 1880s, he was also operating a hotel and from 1899 to 1904 he served as postmaster, operating the post office from his house.

Early businesses in Lovat included a blacksmith shop run by Donald Aitken, opened by 1871, the King Edward Hotel, opened in 1875, and a second hotel run by John MacKay during the 1880s. During the mid 1880s, Aitken added a grocery store and later took over as postmaster until 1891. There was also a general store, located on Lot 35, Concession 8, owned by Duncan McGillivray along with his sisters Christina and Mary. Most of the businesses were located on the Greenock side with the industrial area located on the Bruce side, closer to Willow Creek.

In 1875 a new red brick school, USS Bruce and Greenock was built on Lot 31, Concession 6. The grounds were cleared and fenced in 1877. At times the school accommodated more than 100 pupils.

Thanks to the effort of Thomas Brown, the public cemetery was expanded in 1876. Brown, one of the first trustees, managed to secure an acre of land from the Crown on Lot 35, Concession 8, for the token price of $1. Later in 1877 a town plan was drawn up consisting of four streets and 32 lots. The plan was optimistic at best as Lovat never developed to that extent.

Although Lovat never boomed it managed to hold its own for the remainder of the century. During the 1880s, it acquired a second blacksmith and John Kaley took over the King Edward Hotel. Lumber was shipped out regularly by the MacKay Mill to the GTR station in Paisley about 9 km. Mail was delivered twice weekly by stage, also from Paisley. The population remained stable at around 50.

Lovat's second major industry was a brickyard, started by Robert Mawhinney in 1889. Mawhinney, a brick-maker by trade, purchased 17 acres of land where he set up the buildings and kilns. Mawhinney manufactured both buff-coloured brick as well as tile. Many of the buildings in the area were constructed with brick from the Mawhinney brick yard. By 1895 Mawhinney had also set up a cider mill and erstwhile mill owner John MacKay was trying his hand at beekeeping. In the early 1890s John Moier took over the blacksmith shop. The community never had a church and residents likely worshipped at one of the churches in nearby Paisley.

Lovat managed to continue thriving through the early part of the 20th century. John Metcalfe took over the blacksmith shop and post office in 1904. For an extra $25 per year, Mrs. Metcalfe kept the floors clean and stoked the fire. The blacksmith shop closed a couple of years after the arrival of rural mail delivery in 1913. In 1914 John MacKay's youngest son, John George, took over the mill. A new school, located slightly to the east of the old school, was built in 1915 on 50 feet of land purchased from Robert Colwell.

The brick and tile yard remained in business until 1926. It was rebuilt in 1921 following a fire the previous year. The mill lasted until 1934 when it closed following serious damage form a wind storm. It went down with an enviable safety record of no serious accidents in 57 years of operation. The hotel lasted until around 1937 when it was reportedly demolished. After the mill closed, John George MacKay carried on with a successful maple syrup business that he began in 1920. That business remained in operation until 1959.

The school continued to see regular maintenance and upgrades for many years. In 1936 a windmill was constructed in order to pump the well. A second purchase of land from Mr. Colwell in 1941 resulted in the grounds being enlarged. Further upgrades in 1944 and 45 included hydro, a new water pressure system, a cement sidewalk, and a paint job for the lobbies, basement and flagpole. Indoor toilets were installed in 1947. The school was used until 1965 when it was closed due to centralization of the school system. The building was sold for use as a private residence.

The Lovat Cemetery also saw many improvements. In 1935 plot holders and descendants were contacted for donations in order to establish a perpetual care fund. In 1944 the descendants of Duncan McGillivray, the one-time store owner in Lovat, erected a handsome set of memorial gates in memory of their ancestors. Revis MacKay, the grandson of John MacKay and son of John George, donated a large plot of land from his adjacent farm for further expansion of the cemetery. An additional section of land was acquired in 1960. The cemetery is still in an excellent state of care and continues to be used on occasion.

Little remains of the original town site of Lovat, the community with big dreams that never materialized. Due to hazardous road conditions, the roads were realigned in later years altering the shape of the original town plan. In 1993 a small memorial cairn was erected in the former centre of the village.